Friday, November 30, 2012
I recently brought those headphones home, and today I'm using them – Debbie is enthroned near me, and she of course doesn't want my music playing while she's on the phone or watching a video. In some cases (like Melanie Safka), she detests my music and wouldn't want it playing under any circumstances where she could hear it :-)
So I'm using the headphones extensively, really for the first time – and I'm finding the experience to be extraordinary. I'm hearing things in music I'm very familiar with that I don't believe I've ever heard before. As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Peter, Paul, and Mary – and I can distinctly hear details like people walking on the set, and even the (very low level) hiss of the master tape. Even more striking is the sudden sense of location I have for the instruments and singers.
The headphones I have are made by Sennheiser, their model HD 555, which I bought on the recommendation of a reviewer when they went sale on Amazon. These are not the top-of-the-line model, but I'm very pleased with them...
H.R. 4170 would forgive student loan debt for those who have paid 10 percent of their discretionary income toward their loans for 10 years and would cap interest on federal student loans at the current rate of 3.4 percent. Individuals who go into teaching, public service or practice medicine in underserved areas would have their debt forgiven after only five years.Because over 90% of student loans are made directly by the Federal government, to “forgive” them simply means that future taxpayers will pay them – the debt doesn't simply disappear; instead it's due date is moved to the future and interest accumulates.
This is one example of precisely what Greece et al are fighting the consequences of right now. Not that we'd learn any lessons from that – it will be different for us, bleat the Progressive politicians.
I have no idea what the chances are for passage of this bill. It doesn't really matter, though. Things have progressed too far when a Congressman can even introduce such a bill without the rest of the House shouting him down. All I hear is...crickets...
Thursday, November 29, 2012
The author has made the source images available (here, here, and here) if you'd like to print them and try them yourself!
The history of languages is an area that's long interested me, though I haven't had the opportunity to immerse myself in it very much. One reason why it fascinates me is that it's one of those areas of science that is extremely volatile: linguists' understanding and current models change very rapidly. Just within my adult lifetime there have been something like five or six “revolutions” in our understanding of the history of the world's languages. If Faarlund's claim ends up being verifiable, it's yet another example of this volatility...
Every time I get started down this particular line of thinking, I end up concluding that only a revolution (whether at the ballot box or otherwise) is going to get us off the path of doom. I was hoping for a ballot box revolution earlier this month, but obviously that didn't happen. Will there be one in 2016? Or is it too late already? I see three very broad possibilities:
1. Most likely: The Obama administration muddles through, kicks the fiscal can down the road yet again, and some sort of slow economic recovery occurs. The Republicans keep their House majority. The 2016 election will then be another close, toughly-fought battle between two parties with little daylight between their probable governing styles.
2. Possible: The Obama administration screws things up in ways that are impossible for even the most blinkered partisans to see. The Republicans lose their House majority. There are many opportunities for this: fiscal management, Afghanistan, regulatory weight, etc. The 2016 election will then be a referendum on how to recover from whatever the Obama-provoked disaster was. The Republicans will have the natural advantage of not being in Obama's party, and there's always the interesting possibility that the Tea Party will emerge as the champions of the most popular fix. If the disaster was particularly profound (less likely), then there's even the possibility for that ballot box revolution I hoped for this time. Not a particularly savory option, but one of the few that looks like it has the chance of a good outcome that doesn't involve violence.
3. Least likely: The Obama administration presides over a spectacular economic recovery. Democrats take the House majority. Businesses grow strongly, the stock market soars, the war in Afghanistan ends in some satisfying way, no new wars start, and even hyper-partisan commentators start saying positive things about Obama. The 2016 election will then be the Democrats to lose; all they have to do is field a plausibly “Obama II” candidate.
I don't much like those options...
Debbie and I are experiencing a cyclical emotional reaction to the thought of leaving California. The cycle starts with a gradually increasing sense of regret and unease at the thought of leaving our friends, places we've come to love, and so much that's familiar and comfortable. Then we'll hear a piece of news (most recently, that the takers in Sacremento are seriously considering a radical rise in the commercial property tax rates)...and we'll snap back to “Oh, crap, we've got to get out of here!”
This analysis is clarifying for the simple reason that it sets down in tangible form the real (and quite striking) differences in the way various states are run...
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Last year I posted about a colleague of mine who gave me a big hug, a big “thank you!” and a Starbucks card on Veteran's Day. That was the very first time any of my fellow citizens have ever thanked me for my service (at that point over 30 years in the past!), and I was quite moved by the gesture. She did it again this year, and again I'm smiling every time I use that card.
I take every opportunity I can to say thanks in a meaningful way to a service man or woman I meet. I'm going to try to find ways to do the same for those veterans who, like me, were not thanked while they served...
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
It's very weird to be sitting here watching my country death spiral...
Sunday, November 25, 2012
It’s 6pm on Friday, and I’m writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet. I’m writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later.That's a dog person. My kind of dog person. I don't really like her music (I listened to a couple of music videos), but who cares?
Here’s the thing.
I have a dog, Janet, and she’s been ill for about 2 years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She’s almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then — an adult, officially — and she was my kid.
She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face.
She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders.
She’s almost 14 and I’ve never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She’s a pacifist.
Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact. We’ve lived in numerous houses, and joined a few makeshift families, but it’s always really been just the two of us.
She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.
She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me, all the time we recorded the last album.
The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she’s used to me being gone for a few weeks, every 6 or 7 years.
She has Addison’s Disease, which makes it more dangerous for her to travel, since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death.
Despite all this, she’s effortlessly joyful & playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago. She is my best friend, and my mother, and my daughter, my benefactor, and she’s the one who taught me what love is.
I can’t come to South America. Not now. When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference.
She doesn’t even want to go for walks anymore.
I know that she’s not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That’s why they are so much more present than people.
But I know she is coming close to the time where she will stop being a dog, and start instead to be part of everything. She’ll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.
I just can’t leave her now, please understand. If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.
Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes just to decide what socks to wear to bed.
But this decision is instant.
These are the choices we make, which define us. I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love & friendship.
I am the woman who stays home, baking Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend. And helps her be comfortable & comforted & safe & important.
Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life that keeps us feeling terrified & alone. I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time. I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments.
I need to do my damnedest, to be there for that.
Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known.
When she dies.
So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and I am revelling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel. And I’m asking for your blessing.
I’ll be seeing you.
Via Rachel Lucas...
One thing that occurred to me as I was reading her post: unless she is incredibly naive (and her style makes me doubt that), posting this article took quite a bit of courage. Presumably Beth has a job, and colleagues...and most likely some of them read her blog. That ought to make for some coffee room conversations that are a bit, er, racier than the usual variety!
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Look what happens when we cut down too many trees.
Global warming is one thing, but see below and look at what might happen if we continue to clear our forests!
We have to stop cutting down trees! This is getting serious!
Friday, November 23, 2012
If the USPS were an ordinary business, unencumbered by union work rule problems and with competent management struggling to make a profit...then I might have some faith in a positive outcome. Given the pathetic reality of the USPS, the only faith that I have is that they will bungle this opportunity in a spectacular fashion. They will find a way to lose even more money, and we the taxpayers will bail them out once again. Meanwhile, they will succeed in making it more difficult for some competent private sector organization to enter the business.
Even as recently as WWII it was common for secret messages to be sent via trained pigeons. The message was rolled up tightly and put inside a small covered vial attached to the pigeon's leg...
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Two old engineers were talking of their lives and boasting of their greatest projects. One of the engineers explained how he had designed the largest bridge ever made.Before you build a product, make sure it's what your customers actually want. Good advice for any entrepreneur!
"We built it across a river gorge," he told his friend. "It was wide and deep. We spent two years studying the land, and choosing designs. Then we hired the best people and designed the bridge, which took another five years. We contracted the largest engineering firms to build the structures, the towers, the tollbooths, and the roads that would connect the bridge to the main highways. Under the road level we had trains, and a special path for cyclists. That bridge represented years of my life."
The second man reflected for a while, then spoke. "One evening me and a friend threw a rope across a gorge," he said. "Just a rope, tied to two trees. There were two villages, one at each side. At first, people pulled packages across that rope with a pulley and string. Then someone pulled across a second rope, and built a foot walk. It was dangerous, but the kids loved it. A group of men then rebuilt that, made it solid, and women started to cross, everyday, with their produce. A market grew up on one side of the bridge, and slowly that became a large town, since there was a lot of space for houses. The rope bridge got replaced with a wooden bridge, to allow horses and carts to cross. Then the town built a real stone bridge, with metal beams. Later, they replaced the stone part with steel, and today there's a suspension bridge standing in that same spot."
The first engineer was silent. "Funny thing," he said, "my bridge was demolished not long after it was built. Turns out it was built in the wrong place and no-one wanted to use it. Some bastard had thrown a rope across the gorge, a few miles further downstream, and that's where everyone went."
...a furry, cuddly little ball of Prozac...And she's very thankful to have him. Isn't that a great description of the effect our dogs have on us dog lovers?
Speaking of which...
I've been sleeping on our couch for the past couple of weeks, since Debbie injured her knee – I'm scared that I'll accidentally cause her some bad pain by moving that knee during the night. I have a bed roll I lay out there, in the same room with our four dogs. The dogs think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They love to curl up between my legs, along side me, or plopped right on my chest. Any way they can be close is just fine with them, no matter how uncomfortable it looks to us.
Last night around 1 am I woke up, startled by some unexpected movement along my side. One of our dogs (Race, the border collie) had somehow figured out how to get under the covers, and had joyfully snuggled in alongside me. The moment I cracked my eyes open he started licking my face – great, big, sloppy dog kisses – and whimpering with happiness. “Happy Thanksgiving!”, he seemed to be saying.
I can't imagine being without our dogs...
From Debbie and I, our wishes for a happy Thanksgiving day for all of our readers...
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
First they called “preboarding” for those people needing some extra time. A few elderly folks slowly made their way on board, followed by one very harried-looking mom with five little ones (the oldest couldn't have been more than eight).
Then the gate crew called for “first class” to board. At that point, one of the passengers (a middle-aged man) walked up to the gate crew and said something I couldn't hear – and next thing I heard over the speakers was “Wait a minute – I just found out we have uniformed military traveling on this flight. All uniformed military, please board.”
A single young soldier, dressed in camoflauge and carrying a huge seabag, walked up to the gate. He looked tired. The people around me all jumped up and started applauding, spontaneously. One of the gate crew grabbed his seabag and carried it on board for him. The young soldier didn't seem to hear the applause at first, but then suddenly turned around and looked at the people waiting at the gate – and broke into a beautiful wide grin, saluted us, and then spun around smartly and marched on board.
I shall remember that grin for a long, long time...
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Yesterday I was at my local Kroger buying a large bag of Purina dog chow for my loyal pet, Jake, the Wonder Dog and was in the check-out line when a woman behind me asked if I had a dog.
What did she think I had? An elephant?
So because I'm retired and have little to do, on impulse I told her that no, I didn't have a dog, I was starting the Purina Diet again. I added that I probably shouldn't, because I ended up in the hospital last time, but that I'd lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.
I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and that the way that it works is, to load your pants pockets with Purina Nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. The food is nutritionally complete so it works well and I was going to try it again.
(I have to mention here that practically everyone in line was now enthralled with my story.)
Horrified, she asked if I ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me.
I told her no, I stopped to pee on a fire hydrant and a car hit me.
I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack he was laughing so hard.
Kroger won't let me shop there anymore.
Better watch what you ask retired people. They have all the time in the World to think of crazy things to say.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Cell Phone Etiquette
After a tiring day, a commuter settled down in her seat and closed her eyes.
As the train rolled out of the station, the guy sitting next to her pulled out his cell phone and started talking in a loud voice: "Hi sweetheart. It's Eric. I'm on the train".
"Yes, I know it's the six thirty and not the four thirty, but I had a long meeting".
"No, honey, not with that blonde from the accounts office. It was with the boss".
"No sweetheart, you're the only one in my life".
"Yes, I'm sure, cross my heart"
Fifteen minutes later, he was still talking loudly. When the young woman sitting next to him had enough, she leaned over and said into the phone, "Eric, hang up the phone and come back to bed."
Eric doesn't use his cell phone in public any longer.
I just don't believe them any more. I'm ready to believe that scientists will somehow find a way to read and write multiple bits on a single electron...
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Friday, November 9, 2012
Reading this fascinating post, I've learned that so far setting “correct” letter spacing remains an art. By that I mean that type artists set the spacing through some process that they can't set down on paper, and that (so far, at least) nobody knows how to write a computer program to do it automatically. That I found quite surprising, as it seems like the sort of thing that would be amenable to algorithmic attack. Apparently not! Or at least, not yet...
Without really thinking about it much, I'd always assumed that this change was caused simply by the fact that people today live longer than people used to, and therefore have longer retirements. This is definitely true, and is a component of the issue - but it turns out that the biggest reason is something else altogether: young people today have fewer babies (great animated graphic at the link) . That's the single largest reason for this particular demographic change.
So what to do? For me, there are two answers, one intimate and the other public. On an intimate level, to people I know personally who supported this man, my message is simple: good luck. In the words, of Samuel Adams, I will not seek, "... your counsel or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen." May you enjoy your rendezvous with the government functionary who will weigh your age and health against the expense of whatever medical procedure you will need. You earned it. But my children and grandchildren didn't earn it, yet you've foisted that awful and ghastly fate on them as well. For that, you have my undying contempt.
On a public level, recognizing with shame that it is my generation that has consigned a great country to darkness and servitude, I can only continue the fight. At some point, events will run their course. The currency will be devalued into meaninglessness by repeated mass printings, the debt will be called, the loot which the takers now demand will dry up, and the country will implode. Perhaps out of the ashes, a few voices will be heard reminding all that it didn't have to be like this. It is my hope that Ricochet will be among those voices, and that mine will be among yours.
Though this generation is lost, the fight continues for the next, or the one after that. As long as I have a voice, I will be using it to remind everyone that it didn't have to be this way. Recalling Winston Churchill's remark that, "I like a man who grins when he fights," I look forward to engaging along side the rest of you. And as my friend Alphonse says, "May God bless da hell outta you."
We were worried about the dogs' behavior with her last night, so a friend came up and took them home with her, to board for the night. Probably we'll let them come home today, and there's no doubt their dogly joy will be a sight to behold. Most especially for Race, the border collie that hit her last Sunday – he's been worrying ever since...
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The result that has the most direct impact on us is the passage of Proposition 30 (California). That one is going to smack us in the pocketbook in a most unpleasant way. It's also an indicator to me (as if I needed any more indicators!) that Californians are utterly committed to going the way of Greece. They've got the pedal to the metal, and are heading for the cliff. Except that I think with this election, they've actually done it: they've driven off the cliff. I don't see much chance of a return to sanity for California after this. The best that can be hoped for is that there will be a future opportunity to come back in and rebuild from the ashes. We're going to be leaving within the next couple of years, and maybe much sooner. This was the final straw for us, and I don't think we'll be alone. I had so hoped that Californians would climb back in off the shelf on this one...
Obama's win I'm much less upset about. First of all, unlike Proposition 30, I was expecting this one to go the wrong way. Second (and thankfully), we still have a split Congress; the Republicans are still firmly in control of the House. Gridlock will ensue, I hope. There's one immediate concern, though: the fiscal cliff and what will or will not be done about it. Anything at all could happen now, in the lame duck Congress. I wouldn't put any compromise past the big-government Republicans.
In the longer term, I haven't quite reached the level of despair for our future at the national level that I have for California. The situations really are quite different.
In California, we have a progressive executive and an overwhelmingly progressive Assembly and Senate, with a ludicrously ineffective minority of conservatives – and the trend is for more progressive members. The results for San Diego County elections were instructive: it looks like a long-time big-government conservative Representative (Bilbray) has lost to a progressive opponent (Peters), and it looks like our new city mayor will be a flaming progressive (Filner). San Diego has long been the largest city in California with any semblance of a conservative government, but now that is crumbling before our eyes.
At the Federal level, things are not quite so bleak. We have a Senate with a tiny Democratic majority, and a House with a solid Republican majority. Obama won't be able to pursue his progressive agenda without an effective opposition. There will still be ballot box opportunities to get the Federal government back on track. While it won't be good for our country, I do believe it's true that four more years of Obama-style progressivism will breed more, not fewer, conservative-leaning voters. Hillary Clinton is the most likely Democratic candidate in 2016. The Republicans have a huge field of quality candidates to choose from, and some of them are not big-government Republicans. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the Republicans will be smart enough to choose a small-government candidate (like, say, Paul Ryan). But my real point is that they will have a chance to do so. So I haven't quite reached full on despair at the Federal level.
I see no such possibilities for California. I see an endless spiral, downward, for California. Man, I really, really, hate to say that...
My long-time readers will know that my wife (Debbie) competes in dog agility, and that she runs with one field spaniel (Miki) and one border collie (Race). This past Sunday, she and Race were in Vista at a seminar teaching some of the finer points of running dog agility. Like any agility training, both the dog and its handler were being trained. In one practice run, Debbie was running flat out, and Race did something very undesirable: he ran behind her, from her left to her right. He smashed at full speed into the lower bone (tibia) of her right leg when it was extended behind her. Down she went, and she didn't get up on her own.
I wasn't there to see this. The first I heard about it was a roughly 10:30 am call from a very tense-sounding Debbie, telling me that she'd hurt her knee and we needed to go to the ER. At that point she was about 70 miles away from me. So of course I went zooming up there, and found my girl sitting on a chair, knee wrapped tightly in about 4 miles of Ace bandage, with ice surrounding it. It was obviously badly swollen. Off we went to the ER at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, a facility recommended by several other seminar attendees.
I won't bore you with all the details of our 10 hour ER “adventure”. Most of it was waiting. It took three hours to make it past triage and get into an examining room, where a doctor agreed that pain medication was in order. After seven hours, she'd had a cursory exam, an X-ray, a CAT scan, and a thorough exam by the orthopedist on duty.
Debbie and I have lived through an ACL break before – mine. We knew what those symptoms were like. The symptoms Debbie was showing looked the same to us, so we were expecting to hear that she had a torn ACL and probably meniscus damage on top of it. So when the orthopedist came back with a diagnosis of a fracture of the tibial plateau, we were quite surprised. The more we heard from the orthopedist, the more dismayed we were. For starters, he told us that while an ACL tear wasn't very likely, some meniscus damage was. Then he told us what recovery would be like: three months without being able to put any load at all on her right leg. That means a walker or crutches for that whole time. She would be in physical therapy for range-of-motion and strength during that period, but inevitably her quads will atrophy significantly. Then she starts two to four months of gradually increasing loads on her right leg, with physical therapy to build her strength back up. He told us that if the surgery went well (about an 80% chance) then in about a year she'd be back to her previous condition. If the surgery didn't go so well, she might never regain her full abilities, plus there may be early arthritis and even a debilitating disability. On the other hand, if she skipped the surgery the odds were flipped: about a 20% chance of a good outcome, and an 80% chance of a bad one. Yikes!
The worst part for me was noting that the orthopedist was very interested in Debbie's case – because her injury was a bit unusual (naturally). I hate it when the doctor thinks my case is “interesting”, and it seems to happen way more often than you'd expect to both Debbie and me.
Most of the time, he told us, tibial plateau fractures occur on the outside of the leg. Debbie's fracture was on the inside. He then told us that because of the nature of her fracture, he thought it was a good candidate for a relatively new technique called “balloon osteoplasty” (see explanatory video below). As he explained it, this technique stood a good chance of making the best possible reconstruction of Debbie's tibial plateau. The better the quality of the reconstruction, the better the chances were for a complete recovery. He gave us the option of going for conventional surgery right then (Sunday night), or of waiting for Tuesday, both for a hole in his schedule and to have time to get the equipment brought in (this technique requires gear that isn't normally part of the operating room's inventory). We opted for the balloon osteopathy and waiting for Tuesday.
The more we spoke with this orthopedist (whose name I won't publish until we know the outcome), the more we liked the guy. In addition to being easy to talk with, straightforward, and unhesitating in answering our questions, he also had an appealingly quirky sense of humor. We also noted the deferential way the ER staff treated him – and when I had a private moment with an assistant ER doctor, I asked why. The answer I got was, basically, “Dr. X is a god. He walks 5 or 6 feet above the water. Everybody here loves him because he does such a great job on his patients!” That's a positive endorsement in my book!
So the surgery was scheduled for 8:30 on Tuesday morning, and the hospital staff figured they'd wheel Debbie down to the OR for prep around 6:30 am. So I arrived at Debbie's side at 6 am to be sure I was there to see her off into surgery. 6:30 came and went; no word. 8:30 came and went, no word. Finally at around 9:00 am, one of the floor nurses got in touch with someone in the OR who knew what was happening: the special gear the orthopedist needed for the balloon osteopathy hadn't yet arrived. He was shuffling his schedule to keep a spot open for her, and as soon as the gear arrived she'd be slotted in. Dang.
Finally, just after lunch, the trolley and a couple of runners showed up to send her down to the OR. I sat with her through prep, which mostly meant paperwork and endless rechecks of vital signs, administration of antibiotics, etc. But this experience was far more harrowing than we expected. In the little curtained off area right next to us, an elderly gentleman was coming out of anesthesia after his own surgery. We found out later that he was a dementia victim, very confused all the time, with significant mental impairment. But all we knew at the moment was the horrifying, heart-rending, and very loud moans and groans that he was emitting. If you didn't have the nurse there to tell you what was going on, you'd imagine he was having his fingers pulled out one by one, or something along those lines. Debbie, already frightened by the whole process, was very uncomfortable in the teeth of this poor man's agony. It didn't matter what the nurse told her; it was so awful (for all of us, even the nurse) that added to her pre-existing fear it was nearly overwhelming. Finally, and mercifully, they wheeled Debbie into the OR for the surgery. It was 1:30 pm, and the surgery was scheduled to take 2 hours.
Off I went to the waiting room, to ... wait. I couldn't do anything that required any real thought. I ended up watching a TV for an hour or so; a strange experience as it was tuned into a Spanish-langauge station (and I don't speak Spanish at all) talking about the U.S. election. It was easily the most palatable election coverage I'd run into yet, not least because I couldn't understand any of it.
At almost exactly 3:30 pm, Debbie's surgeon came walking out into the waiting room to talk with me. The first thing I noted was his demeanor: this was one very happy man. I shortly found out why – the surgery could hardly have gone any better. First of all, the balloon osteopathy worked a treat, and her reconstructed tibial plateau was “perfect”. I like perfect. Then he went on to say that he couldn't see any meniscus damage, and that her ACL was (as expected) intact. Debbie's got some hardware in her leg now: a big surgical steel plate and three titanium screws. But the most important thing: her surgical outcome was better than we had even hoped for, and she's got an excellent chance at a complete recovery. Whew!
It was an hour after that before I could see her again, in the OR recovery area. We were there for two hours before they would release her to her room. But finally, at about 6:30 pm, we were on the way back to her room. We had one very bad experience as the two people who transported her back to her room transferred her from the gurney to her bed. They slid her off the gurney into the bed in a manner that suggested they were unaware that her knee was injured. The result was some immediate and extremely bad pain for Debbie. She was out, unconcious, briefly; then back with us and telling us all (very explicitly and descriptively) just how bad her pain was and how willing she'd be to execute the people who had done this to her. Prior to this, she was in no pain at all. Making it even worse: in the confusion around her transfer from OR to the floor, there were no orders for pain medications in the computer record for her. The floor nurses were sympathetic, but couldn't actually administer any pain medication until they had orders (really, that means until a doctor says it's ok). That took around 15 minutes, which seemed like a very long and hell-like eternity to Debbie. They finally did get the pain meds into her, and she finally got some relief.
For the next few hours, Debbie faded in and out of consciousness. Often, she woke up very confused about why she was in the hospital; she had no memory of having been injured. I stayed with her until around 11 pm, and another friend of hers was with her for a while as well. Around 10 pm she finally fell asleep; fitfully at first, but finally into a full-on snore-o-rama. So I went home to take care of the animals and get some sleep myself.
This morning (the day after surgery), I got a phone call at 5:30 am from a perfectly lucid Debbie. I don't have the words to convey just how good it was to hear her normal self back with me. Even better: she wanted coffee - a nice big cup of Starbucks latte, with an extra shot. That's my girl!
And today she's doing much, much better. She's finally got the word about the excellent surgical outcome. While she still professes a desire to execute the two people who caused her pain last night, one senses that it's more pro forma at this point than it is for real. She had a little physical therapy today, ate a little food, and had some nice visits from friends. Her room is full of flowers and cards; there's no longer any space for more. She must have gotten a dozen calls from friends today. She's still got some pain, but the floor staff is doing a good job keeping it under control. We can see a recovery in her future...
Explanatory video about balloon osteoplasty:
Sunday, November 4, 2012
A man on his Harley was riding along a California beach when suddenly the sky clouded above his head and, in a booming voice, God said, 'because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish.'Amen, brother...
The biker pulled over and said, 'Build a bridge to Hawaii so I can ride over anytime I want.'
God replied, 'Your request is materialistic; think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking; the supports required reaching the bottom of the Pacific and the concrete and steel it would take! I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of something that could possibly help mankind.'
The biker thought about it for a long time. Finally, he said, 'God, I wish that I, and all men, could understand women; I want to know how she feels inside, what she's thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she means when she says nothing's wrong, why she snaps and complains when I try to help, and how I can make a woman truly happy.
God replied: ‘You want two lanes or four on that bridge....?"
This election, certainly the most significant in our lifetime, is not about "revenge," as the President so boorishly announced, nor is it about moronic thugs holding their pants up long enough to threaten riots. It's about 9,000 coal mining jobs lost in the last month alone. It's about 48 million people on food stamps, and 23 million people unemployed. It's about a work force that is smaller now than when Barack Obama was inaugurated. It's about a 14.3 percent unemployment rate in the black community. It's about a new IRS requirement that will take effect in 2014, requiring all taxpayers, in the words of sworn testimony, to, "…file their tax returns reporting their health insurance coverage, and/or making a payment." It's about the evisceration of our national defense and, in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, troops who no longer trust their commander in chief.Oh, do go read the whole thing!
It is ultimately a referendum on us, and it's about what kind of country our children and grandchildren will inherit. It's about whether they will be free men and women, freedom here being defined differently than the progressive's definition which stipulates that one must be freed from want or fear through the dictates of centralized planners. History, however, shows that the only path to liberation from want or fear is the path of individual sovereignty. Those in the northeast who chose the liberal path now go hungry, and cold, and fearful, while their government masters flail about, desperately seeking to free the private sector from the onerous rules and obstacles that they imposed. We see now what the Founders knew over two centuries ago; that free people and free markets are the surest means to freedom from want and fear, and that centralized government control over a nation is the surest path to despair, want, fear, and servitude. It's about Liberty. It's about We the People, endowed with unalienable rights, being the masters of our lives and our government instead of the other way around. It's time to reclaim the American ideal.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Nothing whatsoever happened after that, until last week – when completely out of the blue, a nice young fellow from USGS called me and asked if I was still interested. Of course I said yes, and last Thursday he showed up with a GeoSIG IA-2 “Internet Accelerograph” (PDF datasheet) just like the one at right, and a few tools. I had picked out a spot underneath my IT gear that he thought was just dandy, and in just a few minutes he had the thing installed, powered up, checked out, and connected to the Internet (via WiFi!). The bracket that holds the instrument (seen in the photo as the metallic plate on the bottom) is bolted to my slab and leveled. The instrument itself snicks right into that bracket – so as my slab moves, the instrument itself moves.
And exactly what is the instrument? The summary: a three-axis accelerometer with some smarts around it to pick the “strong motion” events to bother reporting, and to record not only the event itself but some time both before and after it. The whole thing is running on an ARM processor; the OS is Linux. Quite the modern piece of gear!
The data it collects is published up to the Internet and is publicly accessible. The page for my particular instrument is here; a map of all the instruments is here (from here you can get to the data for any instrument). The image below shows what the seismograph (all three axes) produces for an event it records:
here's the signup page.
In this case, the binary choice was Obama or Romney winning any one of the nine “swing” states. The New York Times counts nine states as possibly going either way on election day; other observers count as many as thirteen.
Two choices, nine states equals 512 (2^9) possible combinations of Obama/Romney wins in those states. The page linked above has a nice, interactive “tree” diagram that lets you explore all those possibilities. The subtitle points out that in 431 of those combinations, Obama wins the election; in 76 of them, Romney wins – and in 5 of them there's an electoral college tie (which means that the House chooses the president, and the Senate chooses the Vice President). The fact that more combinations lead to an Obama win tells you nothing at all about the probability of an Obama win; it's just the result of Obama having more electoral college votes in states like California or New York, where there's almost no chance of him losing.
That even power of two caught my eye, though. Without that, I'd never have clicked through to see that page :-)
Moving people out of their bubble is hard – and therefore quite rare. In nearly all the cases I know of, it is a process begun and finished entirely on a person's own initiative. The fascinating blogger Neo-Neocon has a wonderful series of posts that describe her escape from just such a political thought bubble. Read those posts and you'll gain an understanding of just how difficult that escape was.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a tool that would make it easier to puncture the bubble? That's just what a professor and graduate student team at the University of Illinois claims to have found, and they tested their tool (in part) by using people solidly in a political bubble. It's an incredibly simple tool: a difficult-to-read font. Seriously.
Last week, I discovered that several of my colleagues – all much younger than I – had never even heard of Dijkstra's monograph. Worse, they'd never heard of the notion that “go to” statements were harmful. They knew they shouldn't use them, but really didn't have any idea of why. It was just something they'd been told. I sent them a link to the paper, which is reproduced online.
For some reason that I can't quite identify, I found this just as shocking as the day a few years back when I discovered that many quite effective young programmers had no idea how computers actually worked. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that both of these things are central to my practice of the programming art. That makes it difficult for me to understand how anyone could effectively practice programming without the same understanding – but the evidence is agin me...
I don't know whether Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan can fix things, but I do know that Barack Obama and Joe Biden won't even try – and that therefore a vote for Obama is a vote for the certainty of national collapse. Look at Lower Manhattan in the dark, and try to imagine what America might look like after the rest of the planet decides it no longer needs the dollar as global reserve currency. For four years, we have had a president who can spend everything but build nothing. Nothing but debt, dependency, and decay. As I said at the beginning, in different ways the response to Hurricane Sandy and Benghazi exemplify the fundamental unseriousness of the superpower at twilight. Whether or not to get serious is the choice facing the electorate Tuesday.Get serious, folks. Please...
Friday, November 2, 2012
Now, personally, I have no desire to be recognized by the committee that selects the Nobel Peace Prize winner. It's hard to imagine a group of people I'd be less interested in being associated with – Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, etc., etc. But Mann apparently has other feelings about that association, and his efforts at self-promotion have rightly earned him scorn from just about every direction.
The National Review outdid all his critics, though. They took out a full page ad on Halloween in the Penn State (where Mann works) student newspaper. It's reproduced below. Via Watts Up With That:
Awesome, National Review. Just awesome!
This administration is an embarrassment on foreign policy and incompetent at best on the economy - though a more careful analysis shows what can only be a perverse and willful attempt to destroy our prosperity. Back in January 2008, Barack Obama told the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle that under his cap-and-trade plan, "If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them." He added, "Under my plan ... electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." It was also in 2008 that Mr. Obama's future Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, famously said it would be necessary to "figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe" - $9 a gallon.
Yet the president now claims he's in favor of oil development and pipelines, taking credit for increased oil production on private lands where he's powerless to block it, after he halted the Keystone XL Pipeline and oversaw a 50 percent reduction in oil leases on public lands.
These behaviors go far beyond "spin." They amount to a pack of lies. To return to office a narcissistic amateur who seeks to ride this nation's economy and international esteem to oblivion, like Slim Pickens riding the nuclear bomb to its target at the end of the movie "Dr. Strangelove," would be disastrous.
Candidate Obama said if he couldn't fix the economy in four years, his would be a one-term presidency.
Mitt Romney is moral, capable and responsible man. Just this once, it's time to hold Barack Obama to his word. Maybe we can all do something about that, come Tuesday.
Pretty sure this video is somehow racist because it presents, in simple graphic form understandable even to your most naive and childish Facebook friends, some facts and math-things that are unflattering to President Be-Cool-Honeybunny. Seriously though, it’s a great video. A little long but gave me goosebumps all the way through.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
On the other hand, there are many promising indicators for Romney, including the crowd size and enthusiasm at the Romney/Ryan campaign events and the growing number of surprising endorsements. There's also the distinct possibility that those state polls (most of them done by smaller, less professional organizations) are not entirely honest, or not entirely accurate. Politicians routinely commission polls that are designed to show that they're in the lead (typically by over-sampling their own party with some flimsy excuse about why). So those polls could plausibly be just so much bullshit. There are a lot of those polls, though.
The one tool we have that plausibly removes all the state-vs.-national polls confusion, bias, and manipulation are the electronic markets (primarily the Iowa Electronic Markets and Intrade). The prices in those markets reflect the assessment of thousands of individuals who are willing to bet real money on their
Something well worth noting here: the Iowa Electonic Market “Winner Takes All” contracts are not actually based on the outcome of the election (that is, on the electoral vote). Instead, they are based on which candidate wins the popular vote. It is possible for Romney to win the election, but lose the popular vote. Most recently this happened in 2000, with Bush vs. Gore – Al Gore actually won the popular vote, but Bush won the electoral vote. It's only happened three times in American history, so it's not a very likely outcome...but it is a possibility, and the closer the popular vote is, the more of a possibility it is.
And here's what it looked like this morning. Not encouraging, if you'd like to see Obama given the boot. All I can do is hope that this is one of those years that the Iowa Electronic Markets are wrong...
I had an interesting conversation with a colleague a few days ago concerning the possibility of deliberate manipulation of the two electronic markets. Could it be done? The answer is “Yes, albeit with considerable effort.” If someone bent on manipulation wanted to raise the apparent odds in favor of Obama, all they would have to do is offer to buy Obama contracts at a higher-than-actual-market price. Someone on the other side would be happy to take those contracts if they believed Romney's odds were actually higher. To actually influence the odds over the long term, the manipulator would have to keep an order at the higher price. Sounds easy, and the overall market float isn't that large, so one could imagine doing this for something on the order of a few million dollars, maybe much less. In the Iowa Electronic Markets (not sure about Intrade) there is a problem with this approach: each speculator is capped at $500. This is defeatable as well: the manipulator could simply continuously create new accounts on the Iowa Electronic Markets, capping them out one after the other. There may be some safeguards preventing this, but if there are, it's not obvious to me.
Now...would this actually be practical? And would it be worth the effort and money to do so? Is the Iowa Electronic Market actually a significant influence? I suspect not, on all counts. I'm skeptical that the Iowa Electronic Markets are anything other than what they appear to be: nearly the only unbiased, clean source of predictive data about the election.